BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Illegal street racing is a problem in Kern County and new legislation tries to curb a part of the issue.
Typically, before a street race, drivers sometimes block traffic on a highway to do stunts, have speed contests, or drive recklessly to entertain, those are sideshows. This law would add penalties for these drivers.
“This is a deadly activity there’s no way to sugarcoat it. You’re putting yourself at risk, you’re putting the lives of those around you at risk and so, do not engage in this activity,” said Assemblymember Vince Fong.
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that adds penalties for sideshow drivers. Under the new law, these drivers can have their license restricted, suspended for up to six months, and be fined up to $500.
“Assembly Bill 3 which provides our law enforcement with an additional tool to go after dangerous sideshows that are leading to illegal street races that are happening in our community,” said Fong.
Fong led the effort but said it’s a partnership between people and law enforcement to help raise awareness about the issue.
“It’s a long-term community effort where we’ve all come together to protect our streets, make our roads safer. We have seen a significant rise the past year, but even going back five years of illegal street racing activity and dangerous sideshows,” said Fong. “And we’re hearing from families sharing their stories of how they’ve lost loved ones but have taken that tragedy and are using it for, to make our roads safer.”
On Thursday morning, California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Police, Automobile Club, and the Kern County District Attorney held a press conference with Fong to talk about the bill passing.
“I think that this bill goes a long way in deterring people because you really, losing your driver’s license will be really devastating for many of these motorists who will be out here and engaging in sideshows,” said Cynthia Zimmer, Kern County DA. “So hopefully, this is something we can do to save lives, and I cannot thank assembly member Vince Fong enough for the work he did in bringing this bill, and thank the governor for signing it.”
“The sideshows and everything related to it is not a victimless crime, real lives and real families are affected on a daily basis and our community has seen too many of these kinds of tragedies,” said Greg Terry Bakersfield Police Chief.
One of the families affected by street racing is Lori Argumedo’s.
“On May 11, 2019, my niece Bethany was killed by a young man that decided to engage in an illegal street racing contest on a residential street. That young man was going 80-100 miles per hour when he hit Bethany’s car. He was in there with his little brother. He pretty much crushed every bone in Bethany’s body,” said Argumedo.
Argumedo is the director of the non-profit Street Racing Kills to raise awareness about the harm that illegal racing can cause.
“So, I share their story because street racing is a problem, and they need to know that this is the reality of street racing. Innocent people’s lives are lost,” said Argumedo.
Fong said that for people who do want to race, there are safe ways to do that.
“We are certainly going to try to find safe avenues for those who want to race or to drift or engage in this type of activity. You got to do it at a speedway in a safe environment. So, that’s our next step in raising awareness, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” said Fong.